There was a story going round, a fairy story some might say, that the United Kingdom was a union of four equal countries. The story was started more than 300 years ago, and though the members have changed, with bits of Ireland coming and going over the years, the story has remained pretty much unchanged since then.
The story reached fresh prominence about nine years ago, when the Scottish National Party gained an overall majority in the Scottish Parliamentary election and the Scottish Government promised the people of Scotland the opportunity to choose their own future. For the next three years, the media was full of reasons why Scotland should not become independent. Some of the reasons were negative; too wee, too poor, too stupid; we’d have to drive on the righthand side of the road, we’ll be unable to protect ourselves from invasion, whether from the Russians or from aliens; some were threats, we won’t get into the EU, Spain would veto EU membership, rUK would bomb all our airports; but some were promises of good times to come, don’t leave us, lead us, they said.
Well, we all know where that led. I say all, but unfortunately, there were those amongst us who didn’t seem to be paying attention, mainly those who were supporters of foreign political parties which somehow managed to wield influence in Scotland. But those who paid attention saw that it led to EVEL, the defacto exclusion of Scottish MPs from the UK parliamentary process. It led to the stream of insults from English MPs and ministers, both inside and outside parliament. It’s just a bit of fun, they said. It led to Brexit, the removal of Scotland from the EU, the exact opposite to what had been promised in 2014. It led to Theresa May and Boris Johnson being in charge, Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber. But most of all, it led to the disaster that is the current UK government’s failed attempt to control the spread of arguably the most serious disease to reach the UK since the Spanish Flu of 1918.
I say their attempt to control, but there is a fairly plausible case to be made for the UK government simply adopting a herd immunity policy, involving maximising the spread of the disease among the population, with the consequent greater impact on the elderly, the ill and the disabled, all of whom are a drain on the UK’s finances. “Who cares if a few pensioners die” seemed to be their opinion. This has led to the UK having the world’s worst record for Coronavirus deaths with the one exception of the US. Second behind Donald Trump, that’s some accolade. For those who think that is a statement too far, you have to decide if the UK government are only driven by financial concerns or are simply so stupid that they really don’t know what they are doing. Tough choice?
However, to get back to the original point, what has happened during the coronavirus outbreak to convince anyone that we are indeed a union of equals? Is it that the supporters of the aforementioned foreign political parties are telling lies about what is happening in Scotland? It seems they did. Is it the equal distribution of PPE to all parts of the UK? But did the UK government not tell UK PPE suppliers to prioritise supplies to English hospitals and care homes and even refuse to fulfil orders from Scotland? It seems they did. Is it that the UK government told their agents abroad not to help the Scottish government source PPE from foreign suppliers? It seems they did. Is this the “union of equals” we were told about?
But today came what many would consider as the final insult, the last straw. The UK government promised the Scottish government £60m as Barnett consequentials from an additional sum being spent to support businesses in England. Based on this, the Scottish Government spent the money to support Scottish businesses, only to find that the UK government changed their mind, apparently on a whim, so no money would be forthcoming, meaning that the Scottish government had spent £60m it didn’t have, with the consequent impact on other budgets.
Is it reasonable for the Scottish government in this “union of equals” to be in a position that its funding is subject to the whim of the Westminster government, to be promised and withdrawn when Westminster feels like it. Does the Westminster government have any reason for this action? Certainly not one they have shared with the rest of us, so it is not unreasonable to assume that it was for purely political advantage, because that’s what’s behind so many of their other decisions.
What should the Scottish government do about it? Should they just accept it and adjust the other budgets to cope? Should they tell the UK government that they are being unfair, but do nothing when the UK government ignores them? Or should they realise the relationship with the rest of the UK is now completely dead and it’s time to go?
I guess it’s time for the Scottish Government to decide. Is it stay and be destroyed or is it go and make your own choices? What do you think?